Stephanie Hargrove, 38, of Willingboro, N.J., a principal claims investigator for the Division of Risk Management, was charged yesterday by complaint-summons with second-degree theft by deception and third-degree tampering with public records or information. Claims investigators process claims for damages filed against the departments or divisions of state government, including tort claims. Hargrove, as a principal claims investigator, worked in a supervisory capacity overseeing other claims investigators, but she also handled her own caseload. She has been suspended as a result of the charges.
Over a period of five years or more, Hargrove allegedly processed or approved in her official capacity a total of in excess of $75,000 in fraudulent claims. The claims allegedly were filed in the names of relatives, friends and acquaintances of Hargrove. The investigation further revealed that proceeds from certain false claims allegedly went to Hargrove. Hargrove allegedly submitted and/or processed false supporting documents as well as the false claims, knowing they were false. The claims were for various damages. For example, a number of claims involved false assertions that vehicles were wrongfully towed due to improper recordkeeping by the MVC, and others involved individuals claiming that foster children placed with them by the Department of Children and Families seriously damaged their homes.
Hargrove was charged in an ongoing investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Deputy Attorneys General Mallory Shanahan and Jonathan Gilmore are assigned to prosecute the case. Attorney General Porrino commended all of the detectives and attorneys who worked on the case for the Division of Criminal Justice. He also thanked the Department of the Treasury for referring the matter to the Division of Criminal Justice and cooperating throughout the investigation.
The second-degree theft charge carries a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000. Under New Jersey’s anti-corruption statute, it carries a mandatory minimum period of parole ineligibility of five years. The third-degree tampering with public records charge carries a sentence of three to five years in prison, including a mandatory two-year period of parole ineligibility, and a fine of up to $15,000. Conviction of either charge also requires forfeiture of any public pension.
The charges are merely accusations and Hargrove is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Because they are indictable offenses, the charges will be presented to a grand jury for potential indictment.
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